Long, hot summer for feds

(Editor’s Note: While Mike Causey is on vacation, he turned over the column to some regular “Federal Report” readers to share their thoughts. But today, we revisit one of Mike’s recent columns, originally published on April 26, 2012.)

If our founding fathers (and mothers) had decided to streamline government with a unicameral legislative branch — instead of a separate House and Senate — federal and postal workers and government retirees would be toast. At least this year.

Being unicameral apparently works. At least for Nebraska. For the District of Columbia, maybe not so much.

But for 49 states, a less streamlined legislative branch with two separate houses is the way they chose to go.

The current U.S. Congress — Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans running the House — is the stuff of dreams for advocates of checks and balances. They say divided government is often a good thing. But for whichever parts control the White House, a divided Congress, or one controlled totally by the opposition is the stuff of nightmares. Our large (535 members of Congress and their staffs) provides employment for lots of people.

Advertisement

Divided government means that lots of bad things (and lots of good things) that might be done don’t get done simply because of politics.

Since the Republicans took over the House, federal workers have been a prime target of budget-cutters. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Many of the leading advocates of a smaller, less expensive government — Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), John Mica (R-Fla.) and Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) to name a few — are very smart, dedicated and sincere in their beliefs. Some came into office knowing next to nothing about how the executive branch operates. But people who have seen them in action say they are quick studies and solid in their beliefs. One, Rep. Ryan of Wisconsin, is said to be on the longer short-list of potential vice presidents for Mitt Romney.

The House would love to whittle down the size of the federal government, cutting employment, reducing retirement benefits and making changes in the government’s generous health benefits program, which House members and their families enjoy too.

The Democratic-controlled Senate went along with President Obama’s two-year federal pay freeze although it probably would have rejected the idea if proposed by President George W. Bush. That aside, it has made it clear that it won’t go along with many — if any — cuts being worked up by the House. On Tuesday it directed the Office of Personnel Management and U.S., Postal Service to expedite its retirement claims processing.

Just this week Rep. Ross (R-Fla.) moved to slash government travel/conference funds in the wake of GSA’s ill-fated Las Vegas session in 2010. His plan would eventually reduce funding by 75 percent. There could be some blowback for merchants and business types in Orlando, a favorite conference spot and scene of many federal gatherings. Irked at the attention GSA has brought Las Vegas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada has advised colleagues and the media to get a life and do a reality check on their real or feigned outrage.

Former Governor Mitt Romney, the apparent GOP presidential nominee, said as President, he would rein in federal pay and ensure that the government doesn’t pay its workers more than their counterparts in the private sector. He’s said to be particularly interested in the federal pension program.

Some experts predict lots of action because of the November elections. Others say it will mostly be talk, but no action, because of the November elections. Either way it’s going to be a long, hot summer if you work for Uncle Sam.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Twitter users could soon have a whole new platform to share their 140-character- or-fewer thoughts: space.

National Geographic is planning to collect tweets today and then beam them into space using the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico, Mashable reports.


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Fed benefits spared in tentative highway, student loan deal
Congressional leaders tentatively agreed on a bill to overhaul federal highway programs and extend student loan interest rates. Federal employees’ retirement benefits appear to be spared in the deal. The legislation also allows the Department of Transportation to avoid furloughing 3,500 employees and halting hundreds of thousands of construction projects. The conference committee is expected to vote on the deal Thursday as a Saturday deadline looms.

White House threatens to veto spending bills over pay freeze, cuts
The White House has threatened to veto two key House spending bills because of proposed cuts to some agencies as well as federal pay and workforce provisions.

Senate committee makes quick work of real property, Hatch Act bills
The Department of Housing and Urban Development would receive up to 2 percent of all governmental property sales for assistance grants to the homeless. This is one provision in the substitute amendment to the Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act. The legislation aims to speed up sales of underused or unused federal properties. The bill passed by unanimous voice vote Wednesday during a markup held by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. In approving the Hatch Act Modernization Act, the committee pushed forward a much-needed update to the 1993 legislation dealing with the political activities of federal employees.

House committees demand transparency, ‘insight’ into sequestration
Congress is demanding more answers about how $1.2 trillion in budget cuts set to take effect in January will be applied across the government. The House Budget Committee Wednesday unanimously approved a bill directing the Obama administration to provide Congress a report with specific details about how the spending cuts will affect federal agencies and programs.